Call to conserve marine resources

Staff Reporter

TIRUNELVELI: Marine biology experts have urged the Tamil Nadu State Forest Commission to recommend to the government for establishment of marine wing in the Forest Department with well-trained staff to effectively conserve the marine resources from being plundered.

Participating in the commission’s consultative workshop held here on Friday, J.K. Patterson Edward, Director, Suganthi Devadasan Marine Research Institute, and renowned marine biologist, said Tamila Nadu, having a coastline of about 1,020 km in 13 districts, should have an elite force attached to Forest Department to conserve and manage coastal biodiversity.

Protect habitats

The ecologically sensitive habitats such as coral reefs, sea-grasses and mangroves in Palk Bay should be effectively protected as was being done in the Gulf of Mannar. Therefore, the coral reef and sea-grass areas in the Palk Bay should be considered for ‘biosphere reserve’ or ‘national park.’

Both these habitats provide fitting ‘breeding ground’ for high fishery production. The sea-grass resources in the Palk Bay were richer than Gulf of Mannar.

“Awareness of laws and policies that protect the marine resources is essential. Regular resource inventory and periodical assessment of coastal biodiversity is needed. We must develop data base on the coastal biodiversity. As we do not have this set up, when tsunami struck our coast in 2004 we could not able to compare and estimate the loss of biodiversity,” the marine biologist noted.

V. Naganathan, Eco Development Officer, Gulf Of Mannar Bio Reserve Trust (GOMBRT), said coastal habitat restoration programmes should be implemented, in particular the coral reefs and sea-grasses.

Vast stretches of degraded areas should be given priority in the restoration programmes.

“Earlier, many buildings on the Tuticorin coastline were constructed using coral reefs and now they are used for lime industries. As per the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, dead and live corals are protected as corals are included under Scheduled – I list. Moreover, dead corals are very good substrates for new recruits. Therefore, steps should be taken to stop using building materials with corals to be brought back to sea,” Mr. Naganathan said.

Wildlife Warden, Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park S. Shenbagamoorthy, informed that GOMBRT was taking steps to demarcate the 22-year-old Gulf of Mananr Marine National Park boundary with buoys.

“There are 3 ranges in the national park under Wildlife Warden and out of 43 sanctioned staff, only 23 are working. So, manpower should be increased. Special allowance should be given to those who work in the sea.

They should be well trained and should not be transferred for a minimum of 5 years because capacity building of these staff in specialized courses such as SCUBA diving, monitoring and assessment can be properly utilised,” he suggested.

Dr. Lazarus, Chairman, Institute for Environmental Research and Social Education, Nagercoil, said the laws should be made flexible for research activities.

Chairman of the Commission P.V. Rajaraman, Member Secretary S. Balaji, Chief Conservator of Forest and Field Director, Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve A. Ramkumar, Conservator of Forest, Tirunelveli, Rampati, Divisional Forest Officer, Dinkar Kumar, Deputy Directors, KMTR, C. Badrasamy and Venkatesh, participated.